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District 17 race begins early
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 The race for the state senate district 17 is beginning early as incumbent Sen. Rick Jeffares, R-Locust Grove, and Nelva Lee, D-McDonough, both held campaign kickoff events recently.

Jeffares greeted campaign supporters in Covington Monday evening at the Emory Street office of retired banker Rob Fowler III, while Lee held her kickoff event Aug. 11 at the Heron Bay Canon Gate Country Club in Locust Grove.

The race figures to be an uphill battle for the Democratic challenger Lee, as district 17 is a majority Republican district. In the primary, in which neither opponent faced opposition, Jeffares garnered 18,691 votes to Lee's 5,308. However, Lee is pressing forward and is trusting in the original reason she decided to run.

"The reason I believe I have a chance is because I'm doing this as a faith-based journey. I tell everyone, especially my Republican friends that I'm running because God wants me to run," Lee said Tuesday. "My whole life has been one of believing that God has led me to one achievement or experience after the other.

"Honestly, it's going to be challenging. It is a Republican district, but if everyone looked at their challenges and decided to fold into the table, nothing would ever get done."

And while Lee is a Democrat, she said she's a conservative Democrat, noting her endorsement by the Georgia Right to Life group during the primary.

On the other side, Jeffares not only enjoys Republican support but is also the incumbent and has the backing of Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who spoke on Jeffares' behalf Monday.

Cagle said that while many senators forget where they come from after being at the Gold Dome for a few years, Jeffares has always remembered his roots. He also said Jeffares doesn't waste words, and true to form, Jeffares' speech was brief, simply thanking his supporters and promising to keep up the work he's been doing at the capitol.

Jeffares is the president and owner of J&T Environmental Services, a firm that helps small cities and counties with their water and sewer needs, in addition to serving as a project manager for engineering firm Ben Turnipseed Engineers.

"In my first two years as a senator, I passed several pieces of legislation to help local governments reduce cost by eliminating unfunded mandates," he told The News previously.

He said one focus he has as a state senator is on creating jobs.

"I have lived and worked in the district most of my life and I want to make sure there are career opportunities in the district so my kids and grand kids can live here also."

Lee is the founder and owner of Medical Interpreting and Translating Institute Online, an online certification program designed to provide the skills necessary to become a professional medical interpreter. She has a doctorate degree in health sciences.

She has previously focused on her three-step plan to revitalize small business in the district, including: giving incentives to large corporations to contract with small businesses owned by veterans and women; removing "red tape" from the tax abatement programs for small businesses to hire workers; and expanding tax abatement programs for industries in science, technology, engineering and math.